I didn’t realize how lucky I was when I first came to Munich. When I found out I had been accepted in state-subsidized student housing a few weeks before arriving, I was pleased, but I kind of took it for granted. A few weeks into my exchange, I realized a lot—as in the majority—of exchange students were frantically looking for a place to live. Indeed, most had only obtained a temporary room during the month of September through the intensive German language course we were taking.
During the last two weeks of September, housing was all the talk. People were responding to dozens of room postings every day; visiting studios, apartments and rooms a few times a week. At first, people were still clinging to the hope they would find something affordable (in the range of 300 to 400 euros per month), but most had given up by the end of the month. All they wanted then was a place to sleep at night come October—no matter the cost.
All they wanted then was a place to sleep at night come October—no matter the cost.
Munich is the financial capital of Germany and is home to two of the country’s top universities, and this makes it a great choice for students and workers alike. However, Munich’s appeal comes at a price. I talked with Christine Kern, responsible for exchange students’ housing at Ludwig-Maximillians-University. She says rents have risen astronomically since she first started working here seven years ago.
“The students found accommodation on the private market seven years ago for about 300 euros and now the average is about 500 euros,” Kern told me.
My rental contract is ending now, which also means the end of reasonable rent costs. When I first moved in for the fall semester, the end of my rental contract seemed so far away. But then a harsh reality dawned on me in April. I had to find a place to live for the months of June and July. It was going to be hard and it was going to be expensive.
The process of finding a place to live in Munich is very different than in Montreal (where I come from). It is extremely personal and time-demanding. You are expected to put a lot of effort into advertising your apartment search. This can mean posting detailed advertisements with a personal bio and photos online or putting posters up all over the city. (Yes, this is still an effective advertising method in Germany.) To even have a chance of finding an apartment, you had better add numerous photos of yourself and explain who you are. You have to express exactly what you’re looking for and what type of lifestyle you have. This doesn’t even account for the time spent responding to apartment offers daily.
If you get lucky, a few renters will get in contact with you and will ask if you would like to come over to visit their apartment. However, a more accurate way to describe the apartment visit is an interview. You are competing against numerous other people desperately seeking accommodation. So, you had better make a good impression.
Even if you do all this, your chances of finding a place are pretty small, especially if it’s only for a short-term rental. (Germans really prefer long-term tenants and/or roommates.)
In fact, I did all of the above and it still didn’t work out.
I did receive a lot of replies but many, if not all of them, were either scams, places way out of the city, or people trying to flirt with me.
It is already hard for Germans to find accommodation, but it is even harder for exchange students says Kern. Indeed, exchange students often have to search for apartments from abroad and don’t speak German, which makes them vulnerable to scams. I spoke with one scam victim, Joaquin Longares. He is a Spanish exchange student at Munich’s Technical University (TU).
“I was looking for an apartment. I started in July or so. I couldn’t find anything, and in August I saw a list of [rental] advertisements on the TU webpage. There was one that looked not super cheap but cheap enough and I told myself I could apply to this one,” says Longares.
He got a reply from the supposed landlord saying that in order to secure the apartment he would have to pay the first month’s rent and a security deposit for a grand total of 1050 euros. With three weeks to go, Longares was pretty desperate and decided to take the leap. But he unfortunately came to Munich to nothing.
“I asked neighbours and the people around and they said a lot of people come to visit the place but there is no room or apartment to rent here at the moment,” says Longares.
A week within his arrival in Munich, Longares was still homeless and his bank depleted of 1050 euros. So how can exchange students avoid this situation?
Kern says this is what to watch out for: “If you find incredibly cheap rooms or accommodation in the city centre, they do not exist. In the city centre it is very expensive. The trick of these people is they say they are not in the city at the moment and they will bring the key later.”
Rest assured, I now do have a place lined up for June and July, which I managed to get through luck and a connection—which is a crazy story all of its own that I'll save for another time.
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